North Greenville University basketball coach Jayne Arledge doesn’t have an electric buzzer concealed in her hand when she flat out states that her 2008-2009 Crusader squad could be a real “shocker.”
With a solid trio of returning seniors combining with a very talented group of freshmen, NGU could pin a few electrical zingers on its opponents this season.
“Some people may think we lost several key scorers from last year and they might tend to overlook us this year,” Arledge noted. “That may be true, but I really believe this year’s team will be better than our team from last year. I firmly believe this year’s team is much more team oriented than any group I’ve coached in recent seasons and we should be very competitive this season.
The Crusaders, who were 14-13 last season, failed to make the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) national championship tournament for the first time in four seasons. NGU was the NCCAA national runnerup in 2005. The Crusaders did indeed lose two of their top three scorers from a year ago, and that is precisely why Arledge is optimistic about this year’s team. Eboni Davis, who averaged 12.9 points per game, and Robin Warner (11.1 ppg) are gone from this year’s roster.
“Our primary goal is to reach the NCAA Division II regional’s,” Arledge added. “That’s obviously where we’d like to end up, but we have an advantage, because if we aren’t selected for an at-large NCAA berth, we get to keep playing and earn a spot in the NCCAA tournament. Our secondary goal is to win our region and finish in the top eight nationally. We expect to be one of the best teams on campus and we firmly expect to play hard and win every game.”
Three cornerstones to yet another winning season in Tigerville are seniors Amanda Milner (6-1 C Clover, SC), who led the Crusaders in scoring and rebounding at 13.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game; Mindy Greenstone (5-10 F Lawrenceville, GA), 2.9 ppg/1.2 rebounds; and Bridgett Smith (5-9 G Weaversville, NC) 1.1 points and rebounds per game. Milner has been a NCCAA All-American the last two seasons and Arledge says a major key to the success of this year’s team is her ability to stay out of foul trouble and in the game. Greenstone is expected to contribute significant senior leadership and Smith is a gritty two-sport athlete who plays touch on the floor at all times. She will join the team immediately after the end of soccer season.
As mentioned, the rapid development of three key freshmen could be the centerpiece of a big season. Karly Stache, a 5-5 guard from Louisville, TN, is considered a big prospect on the perimeter and Arledge said that when she’s hot, she’s extremely hard to guard. Christina Carlis, a 5-8 guard out of McDonough, GA, will add speed and penetration skills to the Crusader backcourt. Erin Gray, a promising 5-11 post player from Fort Mill, SC, is expected to play significant minutes inside this year.
Other top players who are tuned into the Crusader’s current this year are Nikki Wood , a 5-8 junior guard from Spartanburg, SC, who averaged 7.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and was second on last year’s team with 68 assists, who will lead NGU at the point guard position. She may also see some time at the shooting guard position as well. Whitney Smith, a junior guard from Leeds, AL, who averaged five points, 2.6 rebounds and hit 26 3’s, also is back, along with Jaleesa Gladden (5-10 JR F, Chester, SC) 6.1 points/5.0 rebounds.
The team’s defensive stopper once again will be Jacquetta Golden (5-6 JR G, Greenville, SC). She was the team leader in taking charges last season. Transfer Rebecca Carter (5-9 SO F, Newberry College), is also expected to see minutes on the post for the Crusaders. Others to watch for include Brandy Smith (G/F 5-9 SO), who hurt her knee the first day of classes and is expected to be ready early in the season; Miranda Kee (5-7 SO G), who will join the team after the conclusion of the NGU soccer season; and Trish Polito (5-4 SO G), who Coach Arledge is counting on to be a solid backup at the point guard. Polito has struggled with injuries, and Arledge says she’ll be a factor if she is able to get healthy.
“Last year’s team did not quite reach all of its goals, so that will motivate us to work a lot harder this year,” Arledge stated. “We didn’t do the little things that would help us win games, and this year’s squad will do better than last season. We are very team oriented and I really feel we can be very good.”
The addition of more speed to the 2008-2009 Crusader electrical grid means a more up tempo game. “I hope to push the ball up the floor more this year,” Arledge noted excitedly. “We didn’t run as much as I would have liked last year, and I think we’ve got the people to do it this year. We hope to be more disciplined on offense this year, but we also want to push the transition game as well.
The 2008-2009 schedule will include 13 home games in the friendly confines of Hayes Gymnasium and 14 games on the road. NGU will tipoff the season at home Saturday, November 15 at 2:00 p.m. against Reinhardt College. This year’s slate is much different from last season’s. NGU will face eleven opponents that were not on the schedule a year ago. Reinhardt College, Queens University, Lander University, Tusculum College, The Apprentice School, King College, Carson-Newman College, Georgetown College, Southern Wesleyan University, Knoxville College, and the University of West Georgia are all new in 2008-2009, although the Crusaders have faced some of these schools in years past.
“This year’s schedule is much more difficult than last season,” Arledge pointed out. “We are picking up a lot of different teams this season, which should make it a lot tougher schedule, especially with us bringing in five freshmen. “But, we are very excited about our team and the potential for some “shocking” success in 2008-09.”